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Queens Chronicle

Headaches, still no power for many

Lightbulbs remain off as Sandy troubles Northern Queens nabes

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Thu Nov 15, 2012.

Jaqueline Califano greeted Tuesday morning sans electricity with a mammoth, century-old tree sitting atop her Auburndale home. She called 311, reported the problem and got assurances from the Parks Department that the issue will be addressed — eventually.

Ditto Con Edison, which knew the downed tree took power lines with it, leaving several poles precariously leaning at three homes on Jordan Street between 33rd and 34th avenues.

Califano found herself among many residents of Northeast Queens, hundreds of whom still lacked power a week after Hurricane Sandy tore through the borough. The end, according to Con Ed, may be in sight.

On Halloween, another city agency greeted her: the Department of Buildings. The damage caused by the tree on top of her house? It’s a violation. The agency also cited the owners of two other homes the tree is currently using as an ottoman.

“They were very nice. I don’t know if they’re just covering themselves,” Califano said, adding that the inspectors said to keep them in the loop if the tree’s status gets worse. “At this point, the houses are habitable. We’ll do pretty much anything out here to get the tree removed.”

The violation did not bring a fine with it, only the promise to make sure the situation was addressed in the future. The violation also didn’t bring the promise of an expedited tree removal.

The Chronicle was unable to reach the DOB for comment.

The continuing lack of power for Califano and many others in Auburndale, Flushing and Bayside can be attributed to the ferocity of the storm and the overhead delivery system used by the area, according to Con Edison spokesman Alan Drury.

Nearly 400 residents of Queens’ northeast quadrant still lacked power as of this writing.

“The biggest difficulty is the sheer magnitude of the storm,” he said. “This is the biggest storm in company history.”

The neighborhoods’ tree-lined streets create an obstacle for Con Ed crews looking to efficiently return power to the largest amount of people. But a big detriment remains in the form of hulking trees blocking crews from accessing downed power lines and transformers, Drury said.

Once the initial stage of returning power to 90 percent of customers is achieved, the arduous task of piecemeal power restoration begins. But Drury estimates full service to all customers could happen by the end of this weekend.

Califano and her neighbors’ situation drew the ire of State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). He’s beginning to wonder if the Bloomberg administration and Con Edison’s map of New York only depicts Manhattan.

“It’s just insane. Imagine a homeowner just had a tree land on their home, no power and now a city agency is knocking on their door and handing them a violation?” Avella asked. “Aren’t these people dealing with enough?”

The DOB told Avella the violation is a means of tracking the storm’s impact, and a way for the homeowner to keep an official record of the damage to their home.

“They don’t need a violation to do that. You can use a camera,” Avella said, also expressing skepticism a fine won’t eventually follow.

“I just don’t trust them,” he said.

Califano, however, sounded serene about the situation. Her family is a collection of outdoors buffs. No electricity — no problem. She’s more concerned about those leaning poles, and the power lines that look ready to snap. The violation isn’t a big deal.

“As long as there’s nothing, no fines or anything are attached to it,” she said.

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